or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

How to Frighten Young Books

   December 13th, 2011 Brian Herzog

This comic made me laugh:

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal comic

Thanks Chris.

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Repairing Books with The Book Doctor

   December 1st, 2011 Brian Herzog

My coworker Sharon sent me this video just before Thanksgiving, and I thought it was pretty neat - Simon Demosthene at Harvard's Gutman Library talks about repairing books:

I'm not sure if this has made the rounds yet or not, so I apologize if it's old news. I tried to check that with the Is It Old?, which said it was still okay to share, so here you go. Incidentally, I learned of Is It Old? via Lifehacker's recent single-purpose website roundup (I like single-serving websites).

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Flying Corgi Media Presents Back-to-Back Books

   November 15th, 2011 Brian Herzog

Flying Corgi MediaI thought this was neat: a member of our Friends group, along with some colleagues, just started a new publishing company in town.

The name is Flying Corgi Media, and they're focusing on something I'd never heard of: Back-to-Back Books. The idea is that they publish books in pairs, based on the same settings and characters, but written for different ages. Here's how they explain it:

Our first set of Back-to-Back Books, Thérèse’s Adventure and La Comtesse by Charlotte Rolfe! Back-to-Back Book packages provide our readers with pairs of books: one for children ages 9 – 14, the other for adults ages 15 and up. Kids and adults can share characters, settings, storylines and adventures from their books. Thérèse’s Adventure (kids) and La Comtesse (adults), are two exciting novels set in post-Revolutionary France. Get ready for adventure, mystery, and romance!

I thought this was neat - it allows people of different ages to share the same characters and ideas, but also as the younger kids get older, they can easily build on what they already are familiar with. Also, being historical fiction means there's other opportunities for expanding and learning. I haven't talked to our Childrens Librarian yet to see what we're going to do with them, but it almost seems as if they would need to circulate together.

For more information, check out their FAQ, a recent article in the Chelmsford Independent, and of course Flying Corgi Media can be contacted directly. They also have plans for videos and other interactive elements, so I'm looking forward to see where they can take this concept.

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Reference Question of the Week – 11/6/11

   November 12th, 2011 Brian Herzog

Show Me! A Picture Book of Sex for Children and Parents - Photography and Captions by Will McBride - Explanatory Text by Dr. Helga Fleischhauer-HardtThis was a bit bizarre. Three or four weeks ago, a woman came to the reference desk holding her Blackberry. English was not her first language, so there was a bit of a language barrier, but on her Blackberry was a photo of a book titled Show Me!

I didn't recognize it, but from what I could piece together of her story, she had found this book in the home of friends of hers. She felt it contained child pornography, and wanted to know if the book was illegal. She said she noticed it while they were all sitting around talking, but as soon as her friend went into another room, she rushed over, snapped a covert photo, and then ran out of the house and came straight to the library. She wanted to know if the library had a copy and if it was legal to check it out.

I tried to explain that "legal" and "illegal" usually doesn't actually come into play - but if it would with anything, it would be child pornography. However, her photo of the book wasn't clear enough to read the author's name, and a search on Amazon for Show Me produced a lot of results, with none matching the cover (although there were a few that were slightly uncomfortable to skim through in this context).

After a few pages of results, I think she understood that there were a lot of books with "Show Me" in the title. I told her if she could get the author's name from the book the next time she goes to her friend's house, then we'd have a better chance of finding the book.

As she walked away, I actually thought, "well, that was weird, and I will never see her again."

So I was surprised when the woman returned this week. She walked up to me as if no time at all had passed, and just said,

The author is Mac Bride.

I don't have the greatest memory for faces, but for some reason immediately knew who she was and what she was talking about. I searched for "show me mac bride," which lead to a Wikipedia article on the book Show Me!, by Will McBride (the Mac Bride/McBride mistake was me not getting over the language barrier right away).

According to the article, this book does have a history of being challenged in court, but the outcome was not definite. Distribution of the book was stopped to avoid potential legal challenges, and some libraries withdrew it from their collection, but the Supreme Court case cited seemed to only allow the government to ban the sale of the book (not owning it or loaning it, although I am no legal scholar).

We do not own a copy of this book, but I did find a copy at the Boston Public Library (through the state-wide Virtual Catalog), and told her we could request it if she wanted. She asked again if it was legal to take that book out of the library, and I said that yes, it was. Someone could challenge the library making it available, but that it didn't seem illegal to have it.

With that, she said thanks, that's all she wanted to know, and left.

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Navigating NPR’s Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy Books

   October 25th, 2011 Brian Herzog

SF Signal presents A Guide to Navigating NPR's Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy BooksThis isn't new, but I read on Slashdot last week that NPR listeners voted for the top 100 science fiction & fantasy books of all time.

But the website SF Signal saw a problem: the 100 science fiction & fantasy books were from all over the genres, and had basically no rhyme or reason. So they created a readers advisory flowchart, to help readers select which of the 100 they'd be most interested in reading by answering a few questions.

A 100-book flowchart graphic is massively huge (see below), so they also made an interactive version - it's great, and worth a look:

Flowchart for choosing science fiction and fantasy books

Does anyone know of other interactive "choose-your-own-adventure" type readers advisory tools out there?

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Reference Question of the Week – 8/14/11

   August 20th, 2011 Brian Herzog

That book : of perfectly usless information, by Mitchell SymonsA boy of about 10 comes to the desk with That Book of Perfectly Useless Information, holds it up to me, and says,

Do you have any other books of useless trivia, because I really like useless trivia and want to learn more useless trivia.

So naturally, knowing we have lots of books like this, I spin my computer monitor towards him and type in a keyword search, limited to our library, for "useless trivia." I click the search button, and am instantly embarrassed by the result.

Oops. But his response was classic - absolutely dead-pan, he just says "no, I'm not interested in that."

Trying quickly to recover, I searched for the book he has in hand, explaining that each book is assigned subjects, which will link to more books on that same subject. It does, and a bunch come up - all at the same call number of course, so I walk him over to that shelf and help him find a few good ones. He is pleased and goes off to the Circulation Desk to check them out.

Now, I go back to the catalog record for the book he had, because something caught my eye. The subject heading for that book was "Handbooks, vade-mecums, etc."

I don't think I've ever seen this particular subject heading before, and I didn't know what "vade-mecums" meant. I was half expecting it to be Latin for "useless trivia," but according to Merriam-Webster, it means "a book for ready reference." Amazing that in all my time as library student and reference librarian, I hadn't come across that term before. I guess you really do learn something new every day.

(Incidentally, the Latin for "useless trivia" is frustra turpis, according to Google Translator.)

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